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Statement - Forward Thinking on Indigenous Issues

Hon. Lynn Beyak: Honourable senators, I would like to use this time to thank Senator Christmas for his wonderful speech on Tuesday, presenting a compelling model of forward thinking on indigenous affairs. The story of his home community of Membertou and how it overcame the situation it faced is an inspiration for all of us and we should look to this as proof that change is possible.

I have heard similar stories from across Canada of how indigenous people suffered absolute and complete dependency under the Indian Act, and they desire change. Witnesses to our Standing Senate Committee Aboriginal from Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. told us success stories as well. Although some of them are great, none are as remarkable as the one of the community of Membertou.

In my region, we have worked together, as you did, senator, for decades. And although we still have some problems, we have our own success stories to share as well. Success stories should be the rule, not the exception.

It is clear that the status quo needs to change. Governments have spent billions of dollars over many decades and still there is no clean water or adequate housing on many reserves in Canada.

What we are doing isn't working. During the dialogue opened during the residential school debate, Canadians from sea to sea, indigenous and non-indigenous alike, told me we must find change. They pointed out the schools are but a small part of the challenge. The Indian Act, as you so clearly articulated, is the major problem. We need to take this example of success and build on it. We should be promoting others to follow the solution to prosperity and independence.

In the wise words of Chief Robert Joseph, whom I had the pleasure to meet in my office last month, with his wonderful daughter, Shelley, over time we should realize as people sharing the land, we all belong here. The sooner we discover that, the sooner we will be working together and cheering each other on.

Cheers to you, Senator Christmas, for a magnificent example.